March 23, 2014

Boy Brings My Little Pony Backpack to School; Boy Gets Bullied; School Blames Backpack

It’s the same old story you’ve heard a thousand times before. Boy brings My Little Pony backpack to school. Boy gets bulled. School blames backpack, calling it a “trigger for bullying.” Story gets picked up by national media. Internet explodes.

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...

Oh wait. The old story is “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.” This one is actually new. Sort of.

Bullying is a serious problem that is finally being taken seriously after countless years of being explained away by adults who would prefer to look the other way and/or actually didn’t/don’t give a crap about the kids who were/are being victimized by small-minded jerks.

Ten years ago, this story might not have made national news. Twenty years ago it absolutely would have been ignored. The kid would be called a fag, a queer, gay, been beaten up, and his school would have done nothing to stop it.

In this particular case, school officials decided that the way to solve the problem was to tell the boy to stop carrying around his ‘My Little Pony’ backpack. Get something more butch, like Spider-Man. (I made that part up; as far as I know no one offered him any specific backpack suggestions.)

In general, the Internet hive mind is horrified by the notion of blaming the backpack. But school officials are not wrong that the backpack makes the kid an easy target for bullies.

What is wrong is the way they handled the situation. Telling the boy that the solution is to leave the backpack at home sends the message that being different is a bad thing, and that if you are different it’s OK for people to taunt you and beat you up. This is especially important because we are talking about a very young kid. He’s only nine and already equates colors with gender; he was pleasantly surprised to find a blue ‘Pony’ backpack because “most of the [‘My Little Pony’] toys are girly,” he told a reporter from People magazine.

The behavior “triggered” by the backpack is indeed bullying in the truest sense of the word. According to the article on People.com, kids at school were “taking it a little too far, with punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names, stuff that really shouldn’t happen.” That’s remarkably articulate for a 9-year-old. It also makes me cry man tears. The school has to stop the behavior immediately. Focusing on the backpack is wrong.

The boy’s mother is quoted thusly: “Saying a lunchbox is a trigger for bullying is like saying a short skirt is a trigger for rape. It’s flawed logic, it doesn’t make any sense.” I respectfully disagree with her. A lunchbox, in this case a backpack, is in fact the trigger for the bullying. Bullies see backpack. Bullies commence bullying. That doesn’t mean the school handled the situation appropriately. But we should stop saying things are “like rape” because the only thing that is “like rape” is rape. (I have no wish to knock the mother of the bullied boy. Note that I’m not using either her name or his.) There’s no need to compare bullying to something else in order to make it more terrible. Her son is/was being beaten up at school. Why? It doesn’t matter. He should be able to go to school and feel safe, actually be safe. The bullies should be punished immediately. Suspensions, expulsions if the bullying continues. Any parent of a bully who tries to defend their child’s behavior is flat out wrong.

The article on People.com has a link at the end that I won’t click because I know it will only make me more sad.

RELATED: 11-Year-Old Boy Attempts Suicide After Being Bullied for My Little Pony Passion (People.com)

That’s where it goes if you keep blaming the victim. The victim is the 9-year-old boy, not his backpack.

Since the word bullying has become a bit watered down — Justin Bieber claims that when people call him names on Twitter that’s “bullying”, which is bullshit — maybe we should start calling the behavior what it would be called if these were adults.

Assault and battery.

Grayson Bruce Prohibited from Bringing ‘My Little Pony’ Backpack to School : People.com.

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